The PhotoBook Journal

January 31, 2009

Michael Lundgren – Transfigurations

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:56 pm

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Photographer: 2008 copyright Michael Lundgren, courtesy Radius Books

Michael Lundgren’s natural landscape photographs in his book Transfigurations published in 2008 by Radius Books are not what you might expect of this genre of photography. It is a very cerebral set of images that examine the American Southwest landscape.

His photographs are more in line with the New Topographics concept of a direct recording of what is seen in the American desert. His theme is metamorphosis and he attempts to capture that intense radiance and wide range of illumination found in the very arid Southwest American desert.

Lundgren captures subtle and brief changes as well as those changes that take longer duration’s to manifest itself, sometimes only by what a camera can capture. In the desert the essence of how things mark time becomes a gray fog blurred by the memory of time. His photographs provide evidence of change with broad and varied strokes. Such as his photographic pairing of the changing movements of earthly solid rocks with the celestial heavenly bodies.

He plays with scale and tonality and I realize that that what I am looking at is not what exactly I thought it to be. So I find myself reexamining each photograph to re-verify it’s nature. I begin to have doubts and find I need to look closer and make a more critical examination of the “facts” placed before me. A white facing page morphs into a high key desert river bottom and so I find myself returning to the previous white facing pages to reexamine these again. A black page ekes out the subtle details of a desert vista as an experience of staying the night in the desert.

The pairing of images within the book provide an interesting juxtaposition and create potentially greater thematic narratives about the essence of change. A pair of photographs; one of the bright illumination of a full moon while the facing photograph of a landscape with deep shadows are oriented such that the source of illumination within one photograph appears to emanate from the photograph of the facing page.

The photographs are printed with full edge bleeds which implies the feeling of vastness with the images running off the edges much like the endless vistas of the desert. For me in this instance the full bleed images do not appear comfortable which leaves me uneasy although I do think that this aspect of the book design is consistent with the photographer’s conceptual intent.

The book is available in a trade edition, signed version or in a limited edition with a 16 x 20″ silver gelatin photograph and your choice from any image within the book. The ability to choose which print to be included with the limited edition is a nice touch.

Recommended

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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January 26, 2009

Henry Horenstein – Anaimalia

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:48 pm

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Photographer: Henry Horenstein copyright 2008 courtesy Pond Press

Henry Horenstein recently published book Animalia from Pond Press  might also be viewed as a “best of photographs”  from three of his previously published books, “Creatures”, “Canine” and “Aquatics”.

These delicate and interesting photographs are brought together in a wonderfully duo-tone printed book over 90 pages with a cloth hardcover and a tipped in photograph. The photographs are classically displayed in the book design by Kiki Bauer. The books vertical size of 10 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ allows for plenty of breathing room around each photograph with the few two page spreads loosing very little of the details in the gutter.

Editing of the photographs as to image sequence and pairing or leaving a single image on a spread is always intriguing to me. As a monograph you could say that almost any sequencing might do as there might not be a real beginning or end. Yet with this book there is a nice flow to the photographs and it seems effortless to keep turning the pages.

The collective of photographs is a little ecliptic with a combination of tight abstractions, close up details, and medium range environmental studies. Horenstein admits that creating this series in black & white and then adding in the warm sepia toning was to create a further abstraction of this series. I believe that animal portraits is a difficult genre to work in as it is daunting to photograph a subject that can quickly slip into a cliche.

This series is not meant to be very descriptive, e.g. portraits of animals in their habitats. He does provide a unique viewpoint and an attempt to provide something you might not have noticed before. A close up of the back-end of a Rhino is probably not a viewpoint that you would seek out or get very often. One might not be aware of the texture of the Rhino’s skin or how concealed the tail can become. This photograph asks the Darwin question as why did the animals tail evolve that particular way?

Like wise his study of the birds when we able to view close up the way the feathers are formed and lay which become beautiful abstraction patterns.

Granted I have a real soft spot for the photographs of translucent Sea Nettles which Horenstein photographs beautifully. Watching Nettles is much like watching a delicate contemporary ballet that what ever interaction occurs is a visual delight. Horenstein has seemed to capture that essence for me.  In fact I find a wonderful quality to almost every photograph in this book.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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January 23, 2009

Bertrand Fleuret – Landmassess and Railways

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:35 pm

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I had the opportunity to acquire an advance copy of Bertrand Fleuret’s soon to be published photographic book Landmassess and Railways at photo la earlier this month. This is a limited edition (100 each) of a schaden.com imprint of the J&L 2009 Edition, which has a unique hardcover cover.

I find that this book very fascinating on many levels.  It is very much out of the norm for what we come to expect within the US for a published photographic book. Perhaps to better call it a photographic story book, sans text. There is literally a minimum of any text whatsoever. I think that the publisher rescinded and will include a small insert to provide some context for the buyer;

It seems to be the record of a trip. You left the countryside and entered a city. Lost in the layers of construction and decay, you eventually found yourself in an overgrown garden. You remember Sebastian’s jungle, the chaos of creation. You remember Solaris and the island in Le Voyeur. It’s all very clear, like photographs slipped under your door in a manila envelope. Were you there? What happened? As William Gedney wrote in his notebook, “All facts lead eventually to mysteries.”

As to Fleuret’s story it is very much mysterious and abiguous. There are clues that he provides as Fleuret very much wants you to construct your own story. Whether this is a fictional story, a travel log or something in between you have to decide.

As a stor, once you get your initial orientation I found it relatively easy and delightful to move through the first two chapters. As such my story that I was constructing was proceeding enjoyably well. It was providing some inspirational thoughts of my own.

Towards the end of the second chapter was when the discord started to build for me. I had trouble with the dissident odd images and flow to be able to maintain a coherent internal dialog. Which may not have been so bad as I felt the ending was seemingly flat. As a story there did not seem to be a clearly defined ending to this a trip as there had been in creating the introduction and setting the initial stages.

While reading this book I was also struck by the similarities between the pace and flow of the book’s images and how they reminded me of some recent movie trailers on TV. There is a background dialog about the movie while the image are a series of very brief non-sequential and random stills from the movie that are trying to create  an interest by the juxtaposition. I believe that there is a similarity in the photographic editing and the ensuing effect that Fleuret is attempting to create.

A brief glimpse here with a memory recalled and then a long mindless gaze and quickly distracted by another vision by something over there. Life as a series of endless visual vignettes and memories.

Perhaps that is where the mystery increases and the ambiguity mounts and grows. Maybe it is my lack of imagination with constructing an interesting story with the remaining clues that are provided? In some ways this is similar to a novel that you pick up and as you get into it you find that you lose interest. For some reason my bookmark at the first half never seems to progress to it’s conclusion. When I talk with some else I hear that they just can’t put it down until the get to the end and they are fascinated with all of the parts.

The book is printed in a way that reminds me of a written novel and not a photographic series. Many of the photographs are high contrast images yet printed in low contrast, flat and almost less than newsprint quality. There are also paintings and other photographs that have been rephotographed with the half tone dot matrix almost concealing the images which are contributing to the ambiguity.

Landmassess and Railways is a hardcover book (7″ x 9 3/4″) slated for availability by J&L  Spring 2009 and has 208 pages that is duotone printed with the first edition of 1,000 copies.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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January 20, 2009

Alexey Titarenko – Photographs

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:26 pm

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Photographer: Alexey Titarenko copyright 2003 courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery

One of the benefits of providing book reviews at the beginning of year is that there are very few new publication releases at this time of year and a big leeway to discuss previously published books. One such opportunity is a review of Alexey Titarenko’s Photographs published in 2003 by Nailya Alexander Gallery. Amazing this wonderful book is still available.

This is a delightfully designed and printed 9 1/2 x 9 1/2″ softbound book with stiff covers and has 106 pages with 56 black & white photographs and a number of which have a slight sepia toning. The essay by Gabriel Bauret that accompanies the book provides a running dialog about this body of work with the text in both English and French.

There are four photographic series that Titarenko created while living in St Petersburg his place of birth. He has created a story about  St Petersburg as it progresses from Leningrad, a part of the USSR, to the present and possibly looking toward its future. It is also about the people and society of Russia.

We do not clearly see the people who make up this society as Titarenko uses long exposures and camera movement to capture a glimpse of their essence and existence. His subjects appear similar to ghosts moving through the pages of history.  His intent is to try to bring an element of time into the images and create an emotional connection to the cultural changes that occur.

In fact Titarenko explicitly states that his work is very metaphoric and highly dependent upon his attempts to introduce the element of time into a two dimensional image. He wants to try to elicit an emotional reaction in the reader that might correlate with his own personal feelings.

The book starts with dark images that create a foreboding and depressive condition similar to the dire living conditions of those trying to survive in Leningrad at the time. Then the political changes occur which shapes the emotional stability of the city now called St Petersburg.  First the emergence of new hope and then followed by sad disappointment with eventually new hope again appearing again leading finally to a future with promise.

He has provided a unique vision about how it felt to live through those days as an overall feeling of what the conditions were like. His photographs are breathtakingly beautiful and they touch my inner soul. I had seen a fair number of Ttiarenko’s photographs before reading this book and there was that immediate recall and recollection of those first feelings.

The dark despair I felt while looking at his photograph of the sea of bodies slowly making their way up the stairs touching the railing as a slow moving mass going somewhere. Symbolic of a painful march that is slowly moving forward. Titarenko reinforced that mood with a predominate use of middle grays with no white highlights to provide visual relief. A gray day during a gray period in time that one would not willingly want to return to.

As the book progresses Titarenko brings in a new element as a subtle area of warm sepia tonality to metaphorically signify Hope. Concurrently he slowly introduces a longer tonal range to his photographs to reduce the predominate heavy middle gray of his earlier photographs. Increasing the image contrast in conjunction with the delicately applied sepia toning does provide an uplifting feeling especially after the earlier series of the darkly foreboding photographs.

He then ends the book with large groups of people enjoying the beach and having the opportunity to enjoy life. Metaphorically as they bask in the sun in their bathing suits his subjects seem to have far fewer burdens symbolically their loads are now much “lighter”. The final set of the photographs have a full tonal range implying a normalcy with both the white highlights and some true blacks. It creates a place I would like to spend some time and come back to enjoy again.

Titarenko’s book also incorporates colors of red, black, pale blue into both the text pages and section breaks to create further emphases for his narrative. The additional color creates a wonderful element to the book. The occasional full bleeds do not detract from the content of the images and nothing is lost in the gutters. Nicely designed and printed.

Recommended.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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January 18, 2009

Lauren Burke – Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:34 pm

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Photographs 2008 copyright of Lauren Victoria Burke

This is another Print on Demand (POD) that has been published at the end of 2008 immediately after the election of Barack Obama by Lauren Burke Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama. Where as TheGuardian’s A Message For Obama was a global collaboration of a broad spectrum of photographers Burke’s book is the result of a very professional Washington DC freelance photo/journalist project where “Message” could be viewed as objective while “Statesman” is more subjective.

Like TheGuarian book Burke’s Birth of a Statesman is a hardcover book in a larger horizontal 10 x 8″ format with 240 pages that include 475 color and black & white photographs. This book probably has incorporated every photographic page template known to Blurb, the POD printer, with a nice design sense to add variety and a visual change of pace through the book.

The book documents Obama in the Senate before his presidential run and election as well as segments of his Presidential campaign and final election night in Chicago. It is not meant to be an all inclusive about his campaign as Burke was not an embedded photojournalist for the entire duration of Obama’s campaign. Like some photographers who self-publish a photographic book she has a professional agenda for this book and her Washington DC photo agency as a means to provide wider coverage for the photographs she has available. And I also suspect that she is an Obama Presidential supporter but that is just my suspicion in as she may have had an McCain book in the wings as well.

To her credit as a skilled journalist as well as a skilled photographer she weaves in a story with the photographs. Her story shows the ebb and flow of his days in congress and his supporters during the campaign. I think that this adds to the weakness of the book as her editing is not tight to provide the essence of who Obama might be but instead broad and allowed much weaker photographs to be included. Such as the photograph of Obama and his interns after the fact that they were just photographed together. Huh? Perhaps the editing was an effort to illustrate how broad her available inventory is much like a catalog of walking shoes and dry goods.

I can see the potential of this book as the photographs of his supports as they expectantly wait for “Their” candidate. Burke has captured that certain intensity you find in people who have found something that they can really believe in with that look of expectancy in their faces and especially their eyes. Her subject’s body postures and the resultant sense of anticipation come through. She senses and sees this expectancy and then elegantly captures it.

She documents the social environment that also tells Obama’s story with opportunities she finds in the urban landscape. Burke appears sensitive to the potential humor that lurks within this environment as well.

But I am too disappointed in the great amount of chafe that has been included with the wheat and that the distractions take away too much from the great photographic images and the wonderful story that is hiding in this book.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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TheGuardian – A Message For Obama

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All photographs copyright of the photographers courtesy of TheGuardian

I had essentially stated a couple of days ago here, that with the advent of the Print on Demand (POD) book we can have a book in print almost 10 days after an event has occurred. With the recent election of Barrack Obama as President of the United States I am going to review a couple of these “hot off the press” books about his election.

This review is the hardcover 7″ x 7″ book published by Guardian News &  Media in late 2008 titled A Message For Obama. The 120 page book was developed by the Guardian staff as a collaborative effort with the visitors who posted messages about their thoughts and feelings to either the Guardian  or a Flickr site. The editors state that they were able to commission, compile, edit and print their book all within three weeks. Not bad although not at internet or a newspaper speed but amazing to have a published hardcover book available in that short amount of time.

One of the interesting aspects of this small book is that the photographs were contributed from individual located through out the world and that it was edited by a staff in the U.K.  This book might be considered to be a more unbiased and objective assessment of the US politics and the election of Obama.

Regarding the photographs probably the vast majority were non-professional photographers and made by individuals who passionately hoped to pass a personal message to Obama. There is that Flickr rawness to them which is direct and unpolished, sometimes literally wearing their message on their sleeve, forehead or on the back of their hands. The lighting is sometimes poor, the compositions weak, and the images very grainy and overall technically poor photographs. The photographs do carry a big emotional impact, ranging from the totally dedicated, to the non-believers and skeptics.

The book design and layout reflects the edginess and rawness of the photographs within and respectfully not loosing anyone or anything in the gutters. It is not apparent that any relevant content is slipping off with the full bleed images. The book is not monotonous to read and has a nice pace using a variety of the layout templates to provide variety. Will it be on someone’s best of 2009? Very doubtful (well maybe the folks at TheGuardian) and maybe book might have a lot of interest in 10, 20 or 30 years after Flickr is long gone and folks who are interested in what did happen with this election and how did the global community reacted.

It is also very nice that the proceeds from the sale of this book are going to TheGuardian’s long term aid project for Katine, more info here.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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January 16, 2009

Bruce Davidson – Central Park in Platinum

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:44 pm

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Verso Limited Editions has recently published their latest title, Bruce Davidson: Central Park in Platinum, which I had an opportunity to review at photo la last week. This book is really an object de arte, considering the exquisit use materials for its construction.

But first, I want to discuss the photographs of Bruce Davidson in this book, which are from his Central Park series. For background, this was a initially a commissioned project by National Geographics in 1991, which was subsequently cancelled four months into the assignment. Over the following four years, Davidson continued to work on this now self-assigned series.

The selection of the fourteen photographs that are encased in this book are an interesting selection, from those that perhaps could be easily associated with Davidson to many which are not.

Perhaps in an attempt to try to interpret Central Park in a unique manner, many of his photographs are made with an extremewide angle lens. To photograph an iconic location is daunting. He is most successful in what Davidson seems to do best, to capture the essence of the people who use the Park, especially with the photograph of  the women feeding the pigeons (Women at the Pond). A few give you pause to wonder why they are even included in this series, as you would expect some of his best work to be included in this small selection.

I am not sure that I have any better feeling or understanding of Central Park for looking at and studying these photographs. Perhaps that was not the intent. A couple of the landscape images are a delight to look at, with the Poets Walk of the snow falling in the park on the walk way, the most intriguing use of the atmospheric conditions, but these are not the photographs that I would usually associate with Davidson from his earlier work.

And perhaps that may be the point, that this is a small body of work that Davidson has allowed himself to stray from his normal style to follow different and perhaps more personal muse. To try to visual explore a thematic subject and to take some chances.

As to the book itself, the list of fine materials of construction seems to go on and on, such that the book is as much about the book itself as it is about an artist work. I was not prepared with a set of white archival gloves to handle the book and its pages directly. Something about feeling the need to handle a book wearing gloves may not bring out the best in me.  Perhaps the need is more apt if you were looking at fine photographic prints, which is what this book aspires to. Considering the price of $12,500 for the book, it is relatively expensive as new books go.

The book is printed in platinum, as are the two free-standing photographs, the text has been handset by the Press & Letterfundry of Michael & Winifred Bixley, letter pressed on 100% cotton Cranes Rag Paper at KatRan Press by Michael Russem. The master bookbinder for the twelve bound images was Mark Tomlinson, working with a design by Skolkin+Chickey and the entire collection is encased in a custom crafted mahongany box, in a limited edition of 50 books. It is very impressive to behold and does leave a big impact in of itself.

 The introduction was written by Charlotte Cotton, curator and departement head of photography at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

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 Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 14, 2009

Barack Obama – photographic books

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:52 pm

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One of the interesting aspects of the pending Presidential inaguration of Barack Obama, is the growing number of books about him that are now being published. One segement of these new books are the photographic books, which interesting enough, are becoming very quickly available through the Print on Demand (POD) press. Almost as quick as the web, these books can be available within 10 days of  the photographs being assembled into the POD book templates and uploaded to the publisher.

I became aware of the recent story about Lauren Burke, a freelance political photojournalist who just published her POD photographic book ,“Birth of a Statesman: Barack Obama 2005-2008 – The Senate – The Epic Campaign.”   Burke recently had her book, developed between 2005 and Obama’s Chicago Presidential acceptance speach, signed by Obama.

In a quick subject check about Barack Obama at both Blurb and Lulu, I found 40 photogaphic books at Blurb and another 3 at Lulu. The titles are of course very diverse, including TheGuardian (UK) photographic book developed in conjunction with Flickr, “A Message for Obama”.  

I expect to provide a more indepth and critical review of both TheGuardian “..Message..” and Burke’s “Birth of a Statesman…” photographic books by the start of next week. There seems to be some politictial event in Washington D.C. that these book reviews may be relevent to;- )

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

 

January 13, 2009

Photo-eye – Best of 2008

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 12:21 am

I had missed the Photo-eye best of 2008 list, but it was brought to my attention at photo l.a. by Jeffery Ladd, who made one of the lists, (but alas I did not).

So check this out and follow the various matrix of links to the various best of 2008 books lists, a ton of recommended books to consider. Such as:

Markus Schaden, Bookseller & Publisher, Schaden

  1. soul and soul K Suzuki n-licht
  2. Sommerherz Ehling Kehrer
  3. Schles, New History of Photography White Press
  4. Yasuhiko Uchihara Son of a Bit Seigensha 2008
  5. Stephen Shore A Road Trip Journal Phaidon 2008
  6. Stefania Gurdowa Negatives are to be stored Fundacja Imago Mundi 2008
  7. Alec Soth The Last Days of W. A little Brown Mushroom 2008
  8. Rob Hornstra 101 Billionaires .Borotov 2008
  9. Koji Onaka The Dog in France .Sokyu-sha 2008
  10. Tobias Zielony Trona – Armpit of America Zielony / Spector 2008

And another by Darius Himes, Photographer, Publisher, Radius Books

“In no particular order, here are my top favorites! Thanks for the chance to share this list with folks.”
  • Stephen Shore, A Road Trip Journal, Phaidon.
  • Martin Parr, ParrWorld, Aperture.
  • Larry Towell, The World From My Front Porch, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Archive of Modern Conflict.
  • Richard Benson, The Printed Picture, MoMA.
  • Mikhael Subotzky, Beaufort West, Chris Boot.
  • Eugene Richards, The Blue Room, Phaidon.
  • Jules Spinatsch, Highlights International, Kodoji.
  • Ari Marcopolis, The Chance is Higher, Dashwood Books.
  • Obata Yuji, Wintertale, Sokyu-Sha.
  • Various Photographers (both Iranian and European), Iran, A Winter Journey, Fotohof
  • Risaku Suzuki, Yuki/Sakura, Nazraeli Press

3 Bonus Books (If my own books aren’t my favorites, then what am I doing!?)

  • Julie Blackmon, Domestic Vacations, Radius Books.
  • Michael Lundgren, Transfigurations, Radius Books. (coming soon)
  • Lee Friedlander, Lee Friedlander: New Mexico, Radius Books. (coming soon)

And photo-eye then noted that these 10 seemed to be on a lot of the lists;

Stephen Shore; A Road Trip Journal (Phaidon)

Michael Subotzky: Beaufort West (Chris Boot)

Joseph Koudelka; Invasion 68 Prague (Aperture)

Larry Towell; The World From My Front Porch (Chris Boot)

Rob Hornstra; 101 Billionaires (Borotov)

The Books on Books Series (Errata Editions)

David Maisel; Library of Dust (Chronicle)

Dayanita Singh; Sent a Letter (Steidl)

Robert Frank; The Americans (Steidl) Agree!

Stephen Gill; A Series of Disappointments (Nobody)

So, do you think that they missed any or were any in the “what were they thinking” catagory??

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 11, 2009

Photo l.a. update

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 6:48 pm

Last Friday I had an opportunity to attend photo l.a., which is a wonderful opportunity to see a broad spectrum of photographs, but also see the most currently published books and sometimes meet the photographers who created them.

Thus, I have a large pile of new books on the nightstand;- )

I did have an opportunity to meet with Jeffery Ladd and briefly review and discuss his recently published books with Errata Editions, who in turn steered me to Bertrand Fleuret and subsequently snag a Schaden sponsored limited edition (#10/100) copy of his J&L published book, Landmasses and Railways. Oh, yes, going towards the top of the pile on the nightstand. FYI, those interested in Jeffery’s Limited Editions of his four new books should be acting fast, or else, no regrets.

Equally exciting was to meet, discuss, and interview Alexey Titarenko, whose book Alexey Titarenko: photographs which although was published in 2002 by the Nailya Alexander Gallery, is a Russian photographer who is not as well known here in the United States. I hope that changes, but his book is also right there at the top of the pile.

My one regret was not having the time to meet Chris Pichler, the owner of Nazraeli Press. Or I should say, that every time I went by the Nazraeli booth, it was really clogged and busy and Chris had a circle of folks that he was talking with. Since I expect to be in Portland this March for my book publishing workshop at the 23 Sandy Gallery, I hope to carve out some time to see him and Alison at their Portland offices.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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